The winners of the 2014 South West Chef of the Year, the region’s most prestigious cooking competition, were announced at the Awards Presentation Dinner at Exeter Golf and Country Club this week.
The Overall South West Chef of the Year winner was decided from the winners of each of the classes and was awarded to Elly Wentworth, from The Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe who created mushroom tortellini with celeriac velouté, followed by pan-fried chicken breast, pumpkin purée and calva nero and finishing with burnt butter Panna Cotta with apple textures. The 11 finalists in the Professional, Young Professional and Student Chef Classes cooked up a storm in a tense cook-off final on Monday 27th October at Exeter College to be awarded winners in their own categories.
Finalists in the Professional and Young Professional classes created a three course menu using a mystery box of predominantly South West regional ingredients presented to them just 30 minutes before the competition began.
Elly, who was also the winner of the Young Professional class said, “It was really exciting to cook for a panel of such inspiring chefs and we had some fantastic ingredients to work with. There were so many very talented chefs in the final and I’m very excited to have won!”
All finalists were judged by a panel of the South West’s finest chefs including Michael Caines MBE, Peter Gorton, Nathan Outlaw, Neil Haydock, Matt Mason, Simon Hulstone and Ian Webber.
Michael Caines, Judge and co-founder of the competition says, “This year’s event has been the best yet with a huge number of entries and the highest standards we have ever seen. The Junior, Student and Young Professional class finalists have amazed us with their inventiveness and precocious knowledge and the Professional class final has been almost too close to call this year. We are delighted for Elly who really excelled with her final dish and we expect to see great things from her in the future.”
He continues, “As ever the South West Best Dish Class was a joy to judge with impressive cooking from amateur chefs under tense conditions. Throughout the competition the quality and variety of the region’s produce and the skill of those working to create amazing dishes with it has been an enriching experience for everyone involved.”
Winner of the Professional Class is Dean Westcar, from The Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe, who prepared a starter of plaice mi-cuit, celeriac, almond and apple followed by pork two ways, butternut squash, romanesco and cabbage and completed his meal with vanilla custard, blackberries and hazelnuts.
The Student Chef finalists prepared a two-course menu using two compulsory ingredients. The winning chef is Emily Colling, from Exeter College who prepared Asian style beef tartare and cod risotto with mussels, cockles and clams.
The winner of the South West’s Best Dish class for amateur cooks is Alexandra Jenkins, from Honiton who prepared monkfish rolls with chunky chips and pea purée.
Melissa Johnson from The King’s School, Ottery St Mary, Devon was crowned Junior South West Chef of the Year after a hotly contested final at Ashburton Cookery School on Saturday 4th October 2014. Melissa prepared a dish of roast Ark chicken, chicken leg tortellini, local smoked bacon, wild mushrooms, garlic and parmesan.